Sunday, November 11, 2012
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
She jerked back her hand in surprise. With the last brush stroke, the oil and charcoal had burst to life. The painting was finished. She leaned her face in close to breathe in the canvas. Sweet abomination. It was not what she had set out to paint. She had planned a chubby cherub with soft white wings and a heart-shaped arrow poised in a golden bow. But the God trapped in the canvas now was as frightening as he was beautiful. Not Cupid at all, but Eros. He was asleep on a jumbled stack of papers, sonnets, poems, pages torn from her own diary, but his sleep was not the quiet sleep of childhood nor the exhausted sleep of maturity. She had painted him in the wild and restless sleep of youth, his head thrown back, his breath fluttering at his throat, his mouth open like a fish’s.
His skin, which she had planned to make a soft ivory with a gentle rosy blush at the cheeks, was a golden crimson, the color of sunburn on virgin skin, the color of cinnamon swirling in a bowl of spiced wine. His lips were stained with the blood of berries from the mountains, and his wings, spread wide beneath him, burned orange and yellow. His chestnut hair hung in loose curls around his face. He was young, but not a child. His arms were strong, his shoulders broad, his waist lean and firm, and although he was small, his size did not make him seem young, only far away.
His golden bow lay loosely in his hand. His quiver was where he had dropped it, and the arrows spilled over the ground. She had expected to paint the arrows with short shafts and large heart shaped tips. But these arrows, with dark barbs and gleaming edges, were undoubtedly weapons. She could see names written on the shafts, names of doomed princes, lonely widows, warrior kings, and school girls, lover after lover, martyr after martyr, names she knew though she could not explain how she knew.
She reached out and ran her fingers down one dark shaft. The name etched in gold appeared beneath her fingertips. Mother.
“Mother?” The child at her side tugged on her pant leg. “Mom, who did you paint? Is he naked?”
She pulled away from the canvas.
“What? No?” she stammered and stood up. She looked around at the cluttered apartment. Toys were scattered across the floor, laundry piled high on the couch, her husband’s robe draped over the La-Z-Boy™. Puppets danced on the TV screen.
“Mom. I’m hungry. I wanna tuna sandwich. Mom?”
“Sure, clean up your toys, while I get it ready.”
“No buts, clean up your toys.”
In the kitchen she reached over the cluttered dishes and took hold of the Clorox High Efficiency Bleach Gel™. She went back to the TV room and, without the slightest hesitation, soaked the canvas. The colors ran together and bled off the canvas onto the carpet.
“You a gay Angel?” Jason asked the stranger.
The stranger raised his eyebrows. “Why do you ask that?”
“Well I know you’re an Angel, cuz your wings. Mrs. Jenkins got a picture of Angels hung over her trailer door and they all got wings. Bucept their wings is white and yours is black. And I know you’re a gay cuz your muscles. Carl says only gays, queers, and fighters got muscles”
“Did Carl give you that?” The Angel touched the bruise below Jason’s eye.
“Ya.” Jason pulled away. “I asked for it. Mom said I asked for it. Cuz we don’t got money for a new bike, but Mom bought it with her own money and you’re only seven once, and he should mind his own business and he shouts at Mom and… I asked for it.”
“It will be alright now Jason. That is why I have come to take you away.”
Jason scrunched up his face and looked down at the dirt. “I know you say you’re gonna take me away, but what if I don’t wanna go?”
“You would rather stay here?” The Angel waved his hand at the piles of rusting junk and clumps of dusty yellow grass.
Jason leaned against the hot trailer, put his hands in his pockets, and kicked at the dirt. The grasshoppers screeched and the air shimmered in the heat.
“We do not have much time,” the Angel said, “the Rapture is upon us.”
“I know, Mrs. Jenkins told me all about Rapture, but why can’t Mom come.”
The Angel did not answer but stood up straight and held out his hand.
“Mom’s not that bad,” Jason said.
“She let Carl hit you.”
“Is it cuz she’s a harlot?”
“Where did you hear that?”
“Mrs. Jenkins said Mom’s a harlot and I’m a bustard.”
“A bastard,” the Angel corrected, “but that is not your fault, and Mrs. Jenkins is not being saved either.”
“Who’s being saved?”
“The pure in heart. The innocent like yourself.”
Jason dug his toe deeper into the dirt and smiled. “I’m not all that innocent. Me and Jorge killed a cat. Jorge shot it with his pellet gun and I smashed its head with a shovel. All kinds a brains come out.”
“Still, you felt remorse. You buried the cat by the creek and even cried over it.”
“Who told you I cried! I wouldn’t cry bout no dumb cat.”
“Jason. It is alright. Here,” The Angel reach out his hand again.
Jason kept his hands in his pockets.
A rush and a crack. Jason pushed away from the trailer. A ball of fire split across the sky. Jason stood, mouth open, as it tore into the trees beyond the creek.
“Jason!” his mother yelled from inside the trailer. “Jason what you doing out there?”
“Come Jason,” the Angel said.
Jason looked from the Angel’s hand, to the burning woods, to the trailer door.
His mother looked out. “Jason! ”
“Jason,” the Angel said quietly.